By LUCY GUANUNA
SILVER LAKE — Saturday mornings usually finds Lupe Esquivel at the Silver Lake Farmers Market, where she has run the Anna’s Family Farm vegetable stand for the past four years. While the market draws a crowd, Esquival says business has gotten tougher. “Sales have dropped down,” said Esquivel, who has had to lower prices to attract customers. “We aren’t making as much as we used to.” The same holds true for many other vendors.
A recent Los Angeles Times story noted a nationwide slow down in the growth of farmers markets, with market organizers in Southern California talking about saturated conditions as more than 200 markets compete for customers and farmers. “This leads to a situation where there are too many markets and not enough farmers and shoppers,” says the story.
The vendors at the Silver Lake Farmers Market, which operates on Saturdays and Tuesdays, know first hand about the tougher conditions.
Tony, a vendor at the Arreola Farms’ vegetable stand, has seen the transformation. Although the number of vendors and visitors has remained steady over the years, sales continue to drop, he said. Arreola Farms’ sales went from $1,500 to about $800 in the recent years, Tony said.
“There’s a farmers market down the street, and the same one happens here in Silver Lake on Tuesdays,” said Tony. “It gives people other options. There is also more vegetable vendors than before. Before there was only two, including us.”
The competition amongst vendors makes it harder for newer vendors to establish themselves and build a customer base, said Randy Friedman with Etheridge Farms, which opened an organic fruit and nut stand in Silver Lake last June.
“It’s been a struggle trying to get established [in Silver lake],” Friedman said. “And the drop in sales follows because its more competitive and there is a lot of price competition, quality be damned. I refuse to drop our prices because it is organic and its more costly.”
Officials at the Silver Lake Farmers Market did reply to requests for an interview.
Lucy Guanuna has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journa